H*yas for Choice was disappointed to learn about the removal of Students for Reproductive Justice, a student group at Loyola Chicago University, from their campus for condom distribution. This removal, unacceptable even as just an isolated incident, is even more egregious in the context of the larger anti-choice policies of Catholic-affiliated universities. Attending an institution with a Catholic identity should not mean a student forfeits their right to sexual autonomy and a safe sex life . Yet, it seems that at Loyola Chicago, as well as here at Georgetown University, this forfeiture of rights is exactly what school administrators ask from their students.
H*yas for Choice can relate to the struggles Students for Reproductive Justice face on their campus, given our own reality of trying to work for reproductive justice and sexual health at a Jesuit school. We are unrecognized by the University, receive no funding and are barred from many of the privileges recognized student organizations receive. We have no reliable method to quickly and effectively obtain spaces to host events, and if we do obtain a space we must disclaim that nothing about our activities is supported or condoned by Georgetown University or the Society of Jesus. Of course, while we receive no funding to promote students’ right to bodily autonomy, Georgetown University Right to Life receives a large budget from the school each year that enables them to well-fund their efforts to force their own values about behavior and what forms of healthcare are acceptable onto all students’ bodies. This year, 2016, marks twenty-five years of working to ensure Georgetown students’ access to the services they need. At various points in our history, we have faced overt hostility from Georgetown’s administration, and know too well what it feels like to be removed from campus for activities well within our free speech rights as students. We are in constant friction with the administration, and walk a thin line to avoid further punishment and mistreatment.
Because we face these same struggles, we are reminded that these parallels are more than just coincidence; on every political level, anti-choice forces are pushing with renewed vigor against the reproductive rights movement. And yet even in this context, the failure of the manipulated sting videos meant to serve as a vehicle to defund Planned Parenthood and the US Supreme Court’s strikedown of Texas’s unacceptable TRAP law HB2 in the Whole Woman’s Health case give us hope. As students at Catholic schools, we too have important places in this movement. When thinking about how we fit into the larger reproductive justice movement, there are some obvious components that come to mind: fighting for access to contraception, helping ensure students ability to access abortion, promoting education on sexual health issues, and working to end the stigmatization of and lack of adequate treatment for sexually transmitted infections. As an organization, though, we know that there is far more to reproductive justice.
Just like Students for Reproductive Justice, H*yas for Choice approaches our work with an emphasis on intersectionality. Although reproductive injustice threatens us all, it disproportionately affects people of color, queer folk, people who live in rural areas, and people from low-income backgrounds, just to name a few especially vulnerable communities. To us, reproductive justice signifies more than just guaranteeing the right to abortion; our fight is also about ensuring freedom from racism, classism, ableism, heterosexism, and all forms of oppression.
Unfortunately, as students at Catholic schools, our fight for full reproductive justice has been an even longer and harder one. Though we have already won some victories with the growing acceptance of feminist and queer perspectives on our campuses, the Church’s view on reproductive rights remains staunchly conservative.
Even in Catholic social teaching, the values of the reproductive justice movement are found. Doctrine preaches respect for the human person, promoting stable family environments, observing subsidiarity, and most importantly fighting for the common good, all thoroughly consistent with our calls for reproductive justice. Respecting the human person means acknowledging that each individual has autonomy over their body and health. Stable family environments can only exist when we can make for ourselves the choices about when and whether to have children. Dismissing our views can be seen neither as observing subsidiarity nor fighting for the common good.
H*yas for Choice stands in steadfast solidarity with Students for Reproductive Justice at Loyola Chicago in their battle for freedom of speech and their efforts to improve their school. Only by coming together, connecting our struggles, and coordinating our work will we ever achieve our ultimate goal: ending altogether the anti-choice policies and culture at our schools. We are inspired to see Students for Reproductive Justice’s continued resilience in the face of backlash, because we know this is a fight that we can, will, and must win.